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Correspondence

An Englishman in New York

The subway train clanked and screeched out of the darkness at last into stretched autumnal sunshine.  I rattled northward in an emptying carriage gazing down on nameless, nondescript streets, and sometimes straight into ex-offices within which the same endeavors had probably been carried on from when the building had been erected in the early 20th century until the last family firm member had locked up for the final time before heading out to suburban superannuation.  There was a rattle and squeal, a glare of water, and I was on the platform 30 feet above 225th Street watching the Bronx-bound train pull complainingly away.

Then I was down on the street, and the sun was bouncing back at me from off the river, and there were leaves turning to gold, and sparrows screaming in the tangled ironwork of the bridge.  I was curiously aware of crowding ghosts—memories of the freebooters who had claimed this broad new territory for their crowded Netherlands, its proudly Protestant Stadtholder, and their Dutch East India employers.  My back was to the Bronx and Yonkers; to my right was Spuyten Duyvil Creek; below the bridge the Harlem River; and beyond the bridge, my chosen companion for the next 14 miles, the Heere Straat or Breede Weg of Nieuw Amsterdam, which had gradually become the Broadway of New York.

I crossed the bridge and was back on the island, standing at Manhattan’s northern tip with the famous road already...

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